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Nigeria, 43 others join Interpol rescue of 1,426 sexual exploitation victims

A major joint operation against human trafficking has led to 212 arrests and the identification of 1,426 potential victims of sexual exploitation, forced begging and forced criminality across 44 countries.

Operation Global Chain, which held between 8 – 15 May 2023, was led by Austria and Romania, and coordinated by INTERPOL, Europol and Frontex.

It had two specific areas of focus. Firstly, detecting and disrupting organized crime groups involved in the exploitation of victims originating from South America, Asia, Africa, the Western Balkans and Ukraine. Secondly, it sought to not only identify, but also protect and refer victims – confirmed or potential – to support services.

The joint operation, which included the EMPACT Joint Action Days against human trafficking, involved a wide range of law enforcement authorities including police, immigration and border control agencies, transport police, social and child protection services.

Officials were present at nearly 4,000 border crossings, as well as main transport hubs to detect potential victims and suspects, with countries adapting operational activities to the types of trafficking prevalent in their regions.

INTERPOL says while the sting operation lasted, some 130,000 officers worldwide checked:

  • 1.6 million people
  • 153,300 vehicles
  • 72,850 documents
  • 25,400 locations
  • 8,644 flights
  • 244 new investigations initiated
  • 138 suspected traffickers identified
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To support officers in the field, an operational hub hosting 24 countries was established at the INTERPOL General Secretariat in Lyon, France, providing 24/7 analytical and operational support, and facilitating the real-time exchange of information between participating authorities.

Operational highlights
Investigators in Sweden identified five underage boys in a well-known begging area, accompanied by a 19-year-old man. In their statements, the boys indicated that the adult was acting as their boss, overseeing their begging activities.

In Serbia, six suspects were arrested for sexually exploiting 10 female victims. In a separate case, another suspect was arrested for exploiting a woman in the form of forced begging and forced criminality.

Romanian authorities conducted 19 house searches and arrested four people suspected of labour exploitation of at least eight victims.

In North Macedonia, 11 suspects were arrested for the sexual exploitation of minors and trafficking in human beings.

In Colombia, 27 victims of sexual exploitation were identified and seven suspects arrested.

Looking ahead, 244 new investigations were opened as a result of actions on the ground, and 138 suspected traffickers were identified.

Children as most vulnerable victims 
INTERPOL Executive Director of Police Services, Stephen Kavanagh, said: “Criminal groups look at children with a different eye than most of society: they are seen as potential for exploitation and profit.

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“Enforcement operations such as Global Chain allow us establish the vital links required to take trafficking networks head-on, and show that we stand united against any exploitation of vulnerable communities,” concluded Mr Kavanagh.

Operation Global Chain was carried out under the aegis of the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT) and with funding by the German Federal Foreign Office, through INTERPOL’s Project THB Balkans.

Participating countries
Albania, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Kosovo*, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, the Netherlands, Nigeria, North Macedonia, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States and Vietnam.

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